Having read all three books and having seen all three Swedish movies, I was really interested to see what David Fincher did with the source material, and what he did TO actress Rooney Mara.
The first thing I noticed is that David Fincher still enjoys a good opening credit sequence. Yes it’s cool and stylized but don’t give me a headache before your movie starts.
For those two of you that have no idea, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo revolves around a disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist played by Daniel Craig who enlists the aid of gothic bisexual troubled outsider computer genius Lisbeth Salander played by Rooney Mara to help a wealthy industrialist take another look into the unsolved murder of his niece many years ago. The story is based on the first book of a trilogy written by Steig Larsson.
Here’s the thing: These are adults books and I was SO happy to see David Fincher make an adult movie. When I say that I don’t mean sex and violence, I mean with actual character development, intrigue, great plotting and directing. Nothing feels forced. The movie, at over 2.5 hours long, never makes you feel like “hurry up and watch this, we have to finish up.” Granted, the book sprawls so there was definitely some neatening up and streamlining, but that’s fine. If anything, it should make you go and check out the book to see how Larsson really brings his world and characters alive.
The bleakness of the Swedish winter is a character unto itself, as Ingmar Bergman knew so well. Fincher doesn’t downplay this or treat it as an afterthought. It’s not like moving John Constantine from London to Los Angeles and then hiring Keanu Reeves to play him. No, setting and casting were done correctly here.
Daniel Craig is a big movie star, but Rooney Mara is less well known. Sometimes this can be a problem for character interaction, because, while a lot of the story focuses on Blomkvist, the story is really Salander’s, which becomes more apparent in the next two books. But my point is that Fincher, Craig, and Mara each do an excellent job in bringing these characters together. Fincher did what Larson did in his novels: he made them feel like real people. They are not superheroes, spies, or action stars. And you believe them. You never see James Bond when looking at Daniel Craig, which is a good thing. Of course, you may not see James Bond when you see Craig as James Bond either, but that’s another story.
The controversial rape scenes are graphic and brutal and when I see scenes like this I always wonder how many crew people are in the room with the actors at the time. Kind of takes me out of it a bit. Perhaps a defense mechanism.
While I’m not sure if it’s the best date movie, my wife did like the movie as well. She hadn’t read the books and asked if the other books were like the first one, where Blomkvist and Salander solve mysteries together. I told her no, it was not like a rapey version of Scooby Doo.
But the truth is the next two books are very slow. Not in a bad reading a book kind of way but in a movie adaptation kind of way. The novels are meant to be novels and they live, breath and open up the world they create. But as far as a fast paced thriller goes, not so much.
In fact, you could probably make a compelling film using the next two books together which is ultimately one long story with lots and lots of exposition. Not something that is fun to watch in a film. Especially when you get into explaining the Swedish legal system and government bureaucracy. But after seeing this first film, I trust David Fincher and look forward to the next one. As long as it’s not set in Los Angeles.